“Selling Out” To 3D Printed Props

3D printed quarterstaff for Rey Cosplay by Kat Caraway of Her Majesty Kat; photo by BriLan Imagery

“Selling Out” To 3D Printed Props

“SOLD”  I’m buying into the mania that is 3D printed anything.  That is if  you can’t find, afford or make for yourself for any Cosplay or prop needs.  Only, however, if the file exists to print (which most likely it does or it can be digitized).  When the printers first came onto the scene, I was reluctant only because I believed that it removes me as an artist from the equation to make and figure out my own fabrication.

Now accuracy is important to me and I still have to assemble, finish and paint the prop so my artistry and fabrication skills are still required.  Also, the amount of time saved with 3D printed props are the main selling point for me as I no longer have the luxury of taking as long as I need to make a prop or costume accessory.

This post is NOT a tutorial, but a review and a guide with my 3D printed experience.  All my pieces were printed by my good friend Damaris who I’ve wrote about and referred to a lot on this website and was my first interview on my Featured Cosplayers page.  The three props that I had printed were from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and were used with my shared photoshoot with Kat Caraway of Her Majesty Kat‘s Rey Cosplay to my Han Solo Cosplay.  These props are Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber, the NN-14 blaster Han gives to Rey, and Rey’s quarterstaff.

The CR-10 3D Printer

A quick definition according to Wikipedia is: The 3D printing process builds a three-dimensional object from a computer-aided design (CAD) model, usually by successively adding material layer by layer, which is why it is also called additive manufacturing, unlike conventional machining, casting and forging processes, where material is removed from a stock item (subtractive manufacturing) or poured into a mold and shaped by means of dies, presses and hammers.
The term “3D printing” covers a variety of processes in which material is joined or solidified under computer control to create a three-dimensional object, with material being added together (such as liquid molecules or powder grains being fused together), typically layer by layer.

The printer Damaris has is the CR-10 printer which has the capacity of 12″X12″X15″ and was solely used for all the parts printed for my projects.

She confessed to me that it took over four months to get the hang of it and tweak all the settings just right for the best results.  Much reading and several YouTube tutorials went into learning how to use and perfect the process.

All of my props that were printed required multiple small pieces each to be assembled and one of the great features of the 3D printer is being able to print more than one piece at a time.  If it all fits on the 12″X12″ platform, it can be added to the program and printed alongside each other.  See below…


It’s important to give credit to thingiverse.com for all the files used to print the specific star wars props.  I’ll give links to the free files in each section of each prop.

So let’s begin by breaking down (or building up) each of the props made using the 3D printing process:

NN-14 Blaster

Side by side Han giving Rey the NN-14 Blaster from The Force Awakens

The NN-14 blaster was made solely for me to recreate the perfect collaborated photo of Han giving Rey the gun in front of the Millennium Falcon in The Force Awakens.  A total of eleven pieces were printed to be able to make the prop weapon.  Once I got the pieces from Damaris there was minor clean up, but they were immediately ready for assembly.  Super glue was my choice of adhesion and the brand Gorilla glue using the gel formula for the super glue is what I used.  I did have to clamp some of the larger pieces that came together for maximum strength when the glue dried as the larger pieces separate wanted to pull away a little when put together.  I used one screw down the shaft of the barrel to the main body to make sure the barrel could never come apart.

Once all the pieces were assembled together, I was pleasantly surprised how incredibly lightweight the prop was.  I would then be adding real screws and screw heads as aesthetics to all the pre-marked holes printed out ahead of time for the blasters multiple screw appearance shown on the prop.  These screws are purely visual and weren’t necessary for the assembly’s integrity.  I managed to obtain several star shaped holes on the heads of some screws to give the gun a futuristic and accurate feel.

One undesirable characteristic of a finished 3D part, straight off the printer, is the appearance and feel of striations or lines representing each layer of built up cooled plastic filament as the printer injects the substrate for the makeup of the piece.  Kind of like rings inside a tree trunk, you can count how many rings or layers it took to print the part.  This is undesirable because as strong as the filament is (which is a good thing) sanding the piece smooth becomes a real challenge.  Now, because I planned on having a heavily weathered or aged finished prop, I wasn’t as worried trying to sand it perfectly smooth other than the barrel.

The file used for the NN-14 Blaster can be found here: thingiverse.com.  Don’t be a jerk and mass produce these from this file for money.  Make your own file first.


Anakin Skywalker’s Lightsaber

The lightsaber chose you; photo and edit by BriLan Imagery

Anakin’s lightsaber makes it’s way all the way to Episode 7 and beyond as it becomes Rey’s Jedi weapon, so naturally I had to include it in the photoshoot.

Whoever made this file did a great job with adding inserts and location attachment nubs to aid in the assembly process as there were many pieces to this prop.  It was important that I pre-fit the pieces before immediately starting to glue because minor clean up and sanding needed to be done to the attachment areas to bring about a better snug fit.

The file also would only include the instruction for one of each part and there needed to be a multiple of the same part for the bottom grip.  Therefore, I had to inform Damaris to print five more of that particular part.

I was again surprised just how light this prop felt when finished.   3D printed piece when it has girth to it is not solid, but has a “honeycomb” or scaffold inner guts that helps keep the shape yet maintain a hollow feel.

I mentioned earlier how sanding 3D printed parts is very difficult as the filament when hardened is incredibly tough.  This prop had to be as smooth as can be as to give a stainless steel appearance to the lightsaber as it is portrayed on screen.  Damaris knew of a product that is available specifically for 3D parts that can be brushed on in thin layers to help eliminate the striations from the printing process.  This product is called XTC-3D.

The file for Anakin’s lightsaber is here: thingiverse.com.


Rey’s Quarterstaff

This prop was the first and most obvious element I wanted to have for the photoshoot.  It was actually what started it all as Kat wanted me to make her one for her Rey she was working on even before our planned idea behind the shoot, so she commissioned me to make it for her.  This prop is hers now, but I kept the other two for my own collection.

Much of the same steps were taken producing this piece as it took making the blaster and lightsaber.  What’s impressive about this file is the one inch opening already incorporated  with each part so as to be able to slip the pieces on a pre-existing 1″ PVC pipe obtained to help make up the staff.  I also had a few repeat parts that had to be printed twice and sometimes even three times for some of the pieces.  I did little sanding as the striations actually added a machined look to the parts.

Much of this prop was NOT a result of 3D printing. For instance the pipe the pieces were slid onto, the strap for carrying,  and the cloth and faux leather wrappings as a grip.  The paint job gave this staff a weathered rusty look as scene in many pics.  I really enjoyed making this weapon the most and would like to make another one for my own collection.

The file for Rey’s staff can be found here: thingiverse.com.



I can’t say enough about how thankful I am for my friend Damaris and her willingness to make these parts for me.  She has become quite good at the printing process and has even started her own company called CATBOX: 3D PRINTING AND PROPS.  Check out her Etsy shop!

My Top Ten Favorite Movie Props

Top Ten Favorite Movie Props

My Top Ten Favorite Movie Props

Welcome to my second installment of “My Top Ten Favorites…” where I discuss my top ten favorite movie props.  This was tough for me to compile as I love props and there were so many I left out to get to only ten.  I had to come up with some guidelines to keep the list short like “no helmets” since I’ll probably do a list of favorite movie costumes and helmets are a main part of costuming.  Also, as much as I love lightsabers from Star Wars, the actual prop is the handle and visual effects are what make the lightsaber work on screen, so no props that need extra help on film.  I pretty much went with what I think looks really cool to me and works well for the purpose in the particular movie.

#10 Mick “Crocodile” Dundee’s Knife

Mick Crocodile Dundee Knife; Crocodile Dundee 1986

“That’s not a knife. This is a knife.” One of my favorite movie quotes where Dundee was talking about his famous knife that he always carries with him. He was being approached by a gang threatening him with a tiny switch blade knife when he spoke this line.

“The Dundee knife was created by an Australian gunsmith named John Bowring. He was approached by the studio that produced Crocodile Dundee film and asked to make an original knife for the Dundee character. Bowring agreed and produced the famous Dundee knife.”  (Survival Knife Mary)

#9 Doc Brown’s DeLorean Time Machine

DeLorean Time Machine from Back to the Future Trilogy 1985-1990

Yes, a whole car made my favorite prop list.  It probably helped that the DeLorean itself is one of my favorite cars anyway.  But by adding all the “bells and whistles” as a time machine catapults this car as a prop icon I think everyone will love.  The inside of the car with the “flux capacitor” and digital time display is an important memorable detail as well.

#8 LeMarchand’s Puzzle Box

LeMarchand’s Puzzle Box from Hellraiser films 1987-1996

The Hellraiser puzzle box is simple, but can also take on a complex shape when activated opening a gateway for Pinhead and the Cenobites to enter our world.  I love the design and overall look to the cube and still aspire to having one of these in my prop collection one day.

#7 Wolverine’s Claws

Wolverine’s Claws from X-Men and Wolverine spin off movies 2000-2017

A spoiler about Wolverine, perhaps, if I do a list of favorite comic book characters is that he would be #1.  Seeing his claws designed well as a workable esthetic prop on film is exciting for me.  It’s a simple design that I’ve seen used in cosplay a lot but looks real and very cool as the Wolverine’s signature weapon.

#6 Hannibal Lecter’s Prison Mask

Hannibal Lecter’s prison transfer mask from Silence of the Lambs 1991

Another simple design of a prop, but makes a huge statement on film because of the character (and acting performance) that wields the power of it’s use.  Hannibal “the cannibal” Lecter can’t bite anything but his own tongue wearing this.  What sells this mask the most is seeing the whole shot of him wearing the classic straight jacket for an insane person strapped to a dolly, as well, as he’s being transferred.

#5 Ghostbusters Proton Pack

Ghostbuster Proton Backpack from the Ghostbusters films 1984-1989

“Who you gonna call…?”  Such a cool concept piece especially as a whole with the gun and trap that is the perfect design for what it’s supposed to do on film.  And there’s four of them, too!  I loved the Ghostbusters and my favorite parts of the films is when the Ghostbusters show up trying to look tough and important in their jumpsuits and technical gear.  I’d feel important too if I were wearing it all.

#4 Raiders of the Lost Ark Fertility Idol

Raiders of the Lost Ark Fertility Idol opening scene from Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981

We get an introduction to exactly how the character of Indiana Jones is going to be like through the entire franchise of Archeology films starring Harrison Ford with this opening scene–and the lengths he’ll go for a priceless artifact, particularly this first one, is incredibly exciting.  I’ll never forget watching this film on the big screen as an eleven year old kid imagining being an archaeologist myself one day.  Of course that didn’t happen, but my love for art, particularly 3D art, is portrayed with my love for prop making.

#3 Colonial Marines Pulse Rifle

Colonial Marines Pulse Rifle from Aliens 1986

I love this movie and I love this gun!  Everything about this rifle is so cool…from the shape, the sound it makes on film, the badass marines who use it, it’s killing force against the aliens, and the digital countdown of ammunition.  I especially love the scene when Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) cocks it with one arm and launches grenades into alien eggs when approaching the Queen alien’s lair.  A close companion to the rifle is the scanner used alongside the rifle to detect movement when locating how close the aliens are.  “Game over, man!”

#2 Ash’s Chainsaw Hand

Ash’s Chainsaw Hand from Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness 1987-1992

“Groovy!”  How ironic that the very chainsaw used to cut off his hand becomes the extension to where his hand used to be.  I hope that’s not too much of a spoiler because the events of this movie and the way Bruce Campbell plays the role of Ash is something NOT to be missed!  The chainsaw is an iconic symbol for the Evil Dead series and rightfully so.  The scene in the shed where Ash constructs his defense with the chainsaw and sawed off shotgun is a filming and editing masterpiece.

#1 T-800 Endo Skull

T-800 Endo Skull from The Terminator 1984

This is definitely a must have in my collection!  So brilliant of a design and concept, and so awesome and cool to look at!  I can totally see and imagine flesh overtop of the chrome to get to the face of Arnold Schwarzenagger as the cybernetic assassin.  I list reasons why this is one of my favorite movies in my blog post on My Top Ten Favorite Movies, but I left out this one reason that the film houses my favorite prop.  “I’ll be back.”

And I’ll be back with more top ten favorites soon on makeup and costuming in film.  Let me know what you think so far with my favorites and comment here what some of your favorite movie props are.

Thanks again for hanging out and keep a look out for more content here with cosplay, prop and costume making.

Steampunk Gauntlet on a Budget Tutorial

Finished glove with rub-n-buff colored gears add ons

Steampunk Gauntlet on a Budget Tutorial

List of Materials
  1. A pair of welding gloves (preferably used) where you’ll only be using one of them.
  2. Leather dye Drk brown
  3. Faux leather material 1/2 yard
  4. Thin gauge copper sheet that can be cut with scissors
  5. Paper fasteners package
  6. Choice of add ons (gears, gauges, fan blades, etc….)
  7. Rub-n-buff metallic rub on wax
Tools Used
  1. Scissors
  2. Exacto knife
  3. Tape measure
  4. Hot glue gun
  5. Hot glue sticks
  1. Used welding glove to be leather dyed

    To keep the project on a strict budget, it helps to have found a pair of welding or thick barbeque gloves that are used already.  If you don’t have a pair, try finding some at a thrift store and/or garage sale.

    Depending on the color the glove is, you may have to dye it a color that will help blend in with a steampunk look.  I used dark brown to mask the blue that I started with.  Follow directions on the dye bottle.  It took three coats for my glove.

  2. Dyed leather glove with accessories to be added

    I was ambitious and thought I would fit everything on the glove you see in the photo, but once I saw it come together, I was able to weed out what I really needed to make it look proper. Sometimes less is more.  Plan out what you want to use ahead of time and it’s okay to have a lot in mind to start with, because you can always decide otherwise.

  3. Sections fabricated separately

    To make this glove look more the part as a mechanical gauntlet, you’ll need to cover it with as much of the copper sheeting and fake rivets (paper fasteners) as possible.  What made this a simple and effective build was making each section separately and then adding them on after.  The simplicity was with not having to go through the thick glove with stitching, cutting, poking, or threading to the inside.

    Measure how big of an individual section you want to address first and either mark the faux leather or cut a pattern and then transfer onto the faux leather the shape to be cut out.  Cut it out of the material.

    Next you’ll want to take the same shape of the copper sheeting, but smaller so the faux leather material has a boarder of 1/8″-1/4″ appearing behind the copper sheeting.  You should have a thin enough gauge copper to be able to use scissors for cutting.

    Center cut shape of copper sheeting over top of the faux leather material and plan, mark and space out where you want the rivets to appear along the boarder of the metal.  It’s not necessary to glue the metal to the material because the rivets (paper fasteners) will go through and fasten together the two shapes together, but you can if you want so the two don’t move before the process is finished.

    With the exacto blade, poke through and cut a small slit through both materials where the center of the rivet will be located. Then take a closed paper fastener and poke the shafts through the slit and then spread the shaft apart tightly against the back of the faux leather side.  Repeat for all planned rivet spots.  Try to plan the direction of where the feet of the paper fasteners will end after opening so they don’t stick out past the boarder of the faux leather material.  If that happens though the fastener’s feet are thin enough to cut out of the way.

  4. Sections added on with hot glue

    Hot glue assembled sections in place, concentrating on the edges.

  5. Begin finger wrap sections and test fit

    The fingers are a little more involved since you’ll be making many sections. Each finger has at least two “rings” or copper wraps between each knuckle.

    The same principle applies where you have a faux leather backing under copper sheeting strip with only 1/8″ boarder.  You’ll need to measure each section of each finger because the length around and distance between each knuckle changes frequently.  I did find, however, I was able to use the same measurements for some of the finger sections.  Most fingers have only two rivets except the thumb, forefinger and pinky because three sides of the finger are exposed, so I put another rivet on the side for visual stimulus.

    There should be at least an 1/8″ overlap where the two ends of the “ring” come together where you’ll need to poke the paper fastener through both ends (two layers of faux leather and two layers of copper sheeting).  Once you make the wrap held in place by the paper fasteners, you can slide the “ring” in place on the finger.  It’s good to have it a little loose with a gap between the glove and the wrap because once the finger is in place in the glove the space becomes filled.  I put a dab of hot glue on the underside inside any gap to hold the “ring” in place.

  6. Near completion, stiff enough to stand on its own

    Repeat step 5 until all the digits are filled.

  7. Finished glove with rub-n-buff colored gears add ons

    Add any gears, gauges, or cool steampunk related props to the glove for more esthetic purposes.  I like putting gears next to each other to give the impression that they are actually turning something.  I was able to choose gears that were compatible to my paper fasteners so they actually spin freely.

    I used Rub-N-Buff on anything that wasn’t metallic looking already which matches the steampunk theme.  Follow directions on the package.

Happy Crafting!  Let me know if you choose this method and comment below how you did…

Steampunk, Baby…Yeah!

Steampunk, Baby…Yeah!

I absolutely love anything steampunk.  I once saw the perfect, quick, definition for steampunk as …a time that never was, but one that we wish we had…

The actual definition from Wikipedia is [Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild West”, in a future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power.]

What’s great about steampunk is that your imagination is the only thing limiting you on what you can do for any deco or cosplay accessories relating to this popular genre.  This means endless combinations and countess leather, goggles, gears, brass, copper, fashion and made up time travel device add ons to any project. Fun stuff!

I remember my exact first encounter where I fell in love with the theme and that was at DragonCon 2011 after the realease of the movie Sucker Punch.  I’m sure steampunk has been around since the real industrial revolution, but this movie seamed to unlock the fan base to explode in exposure.  I was at DragonCon 2010 the year before and I can’t think of any instances of steampunk that I could remember.  2011, however, every time I turned around I could easily spot brass and leather immediately.

So in honor of my love for steampunk, I’m dedicating this post to the three costumes I’m designing and making for me, my wife and daughter for MegaCon Orlando 2018.  Here I will be walking you through the design, fabrication and test fitting for our group Cosplay.

So, to start, I have to disclose the absolute driving force to this project besides my love for it, and that is the budget.  I’m trying (for once…ha, ha) to make everything as frugal and cost efficient as possible.  Which means I’ll be making almost everything from scratch and repurposing stuff that I may already have.

Our group cosplay is going to tell a story…I am a steampunk airship mechanic, my wife is just steampunk “bad to the bone,” and my daughter is a life sized windup doll we made because the narrative we’re pushing for is that we can’t have kids of our own.

I always like to start any cosplay with the props that will be used because I believe that is my specialty and is what I have the most control over.  If the prop making goes well then my confidence gets boosted and the rest of the costume making should be successful.  Earlier I wrote a post on prop weapons where I talk about how usually this is where I start a project, so naturally this is where we’ll begin.

As I mentioned earlier, budget comes into play as a dominate motivation and I just happen to have a prop gun that I can repurpose for me and a prop gun, perfect for my wife to use.  The only cost is with little accessories, paint, rub-n-buff, and materials to make a holster for Debbie’s flintlock gun.

My Prop Steampunk Gun

Finished steampunk gun from repurposed prop weapon of two other themes I made from before.

I’ve seen many cool steampunk guns during my researching stages of this cosplay and a lot of them were nerf guns painted to look the part.  I was impressed enough that I had planned on doing the same until I realized I could just take what I already have and modify it.  This gun started as an anime prop I made and molded from the mini series Gungrave. Then I turned it into a Zombie Apocalypse prop gun, and then to what it is now.  See the transformation below. The parts added to make it steampunk I found at a local surplus store called Skycraft where you can get just about anything dealing with electronics, motors, wiring, hardware, LED lighting, etc… I chose mostly small parts that made it cost efficient, especially when I started off with a free gun that I already had.  I used a product called Rub-N-Buff to color the gun the proper metallic steampunk look.  Rub-N-Buff is not a paint, but a metallic wax that you apply with your finger or brush and rub it in and buff to give it the metallic sheen.  You can make just about anything look steampunk with Rub-N-Buff.  The only new paint on the gun is the patina aging effect I gave it to simulate a realistic weathering effect to copper and/or brass.  This is taking a chance because the countless pictures witnessed during referencing, I saw absolutely no aging.  They were all brand new clean looking repainted nerf guns–which was actually still impressive, but I chose the aged look.

Prop gun transformation from Gungrave to Zombie Apocalypse to Steampunk

Turning an existing prop gun into a steampunk gun:


Debbie’s Flintlock Holster

I’ll begin here by emphasizing budget again.  I already had a flintlock replica gun in my collection that could be used for Debbie’s accessories.  All that was needed was a way for her to carry it without carrying it in her hand the whole time and that is making a holster.  All I used was faux leather material from Joann’s, 5/8″ push snaps, grommets, and some real leather strapping.  See pics below.


Steampunk Gauntlet 

Back to my costume…one of my favorite steampunk accessory invention is the gauntlet. It’s a perfect add on to my cosplay because of my mechanic status.  The gauntlet for my character gives him the ability to protect his hand from hot steam pipes, and offers the added strength as a gauntlet represents more power and strength for the hand that it houses.  See pics and video below on how I made mine on a budget.



Props Cut from CNC Router

I have the great fortune of working at a sign shop, Vital Signs of Orlando Inc, that has a computerized cutting table (CNC router) that can cut almost any shape out of almost any material real fast once it’s programmed in the computer.  I of course asked permission and used scrap material that was going to be thrown away.  I also was making something for myself and not anything I could potentially make money off of.

The few props highlighted here that are cut from this tool are my pipe wrench and Cassidy’s windup key mechanism with gears on her back, for her doll cosplay.  The material used was plastic board called sintra that keeps the props light weight for comfort and easy function.

Pipe Wrench-I knew as an airship mechanic I had to have some sort of tool on me and what better tool for steampunk is an oversized pipe wrench.  Nothing beats the real thing except, if you don’t have one and the real thing would be WAY too heavy!  So I made my own out of sintra and cut it at work using the CNC router table.


Windup Key Mechanism-Nothing says life sized doll better than a giant windup key protruding off the back of the subject.  To make the key at least turn manually I used the inner bearings out of a fidget spinner.


Here’s a quick video of the CNC router table in action cutting out the windup key:


Debbie’s Steampunk Girl Costume

Debbie’s MegaCon Steampunk Girl costume

Here again, I’ll refer to the budget and tell you that what a nice surprise to find my wife happened to have some threads like the undershirt and brown jeans along with boots that could be used perfectly to go with her steampunk girl cosplay.  Instant savings.

I freely confess that there are store bought items, but a major plus is that her goggles and corset were bought from a store closing sale at a Party City where  75%-90%  off everything in the store.

Other new, but reasonable priced items for her were the spats, pocket watches, and skeleton keys (0.50 cents ea).  I did buy some lace material at Joann’s and made her choker and bracelets.

The only store bought items for the steampunk girl costume

Finished Props and Accessories Ready For Test Fitting


My Steampunk Airship Mechanic Costume

Enough of the teaser photos, here’s the first test fitting of my cosplay.  I started to cheat a little with the budget and had to get a couple of things of mine on Amazon.  Time was running out and I couldn’t find my shirt, or suspenders at any local thrift store. I also bought my spats as well.

Airship mechanic first test fitting


Unforeseen Change of Plans

My original intent was to take these three cosplays to my local comic book convention, MegaCon Orlando, with my family and show them off there.  I had successfully finished the costumes and had tickets for all of us to go on Saturday of the con’s long weekend schedule.  But life sometimes throws you “curveballs” and forces a different direction with plans.  We had a friend of the family pass away suddenly and we wanted to attend the memorial service that was happening the same day.  Some things in life are more important and I didn’t hesitate to support our friends in mourning.

We’ll always have the costumes and I knew I was also going to take many good photos specifically for this blog.


Steampunk Family Cosplay Photo Gallery










Light It UP! Upgrade your Costumes and Props With LEDs

LEDs for lighting the eyes on Skull Knight.

Light It UP! Upgrade your Costumes and Props With LEDs

I love how cosplaying is getting more and more popular.  There hasn’t been a better time to be a fan of the comic/sci-fi/anime world then now.  I remember a time before the term “cosplay” was coined and one would have been considered a nerd or geek for going to a Star Trek convention in full uniform.  Now it’s all celebrated and very mainstream which could have some disadvantages, but the fun and excitement will always supersede.

So with the great competition–there’s no better way to succeed than to “Light It Up!”  If you’re costume calls for electronics–DO IT!  It’s somewhat simple and incredibly effective and will definitely turn heads.  We’ll also talk about how lights and electrical effects turns up the WOW factor for your collectible props display as well.

I’d like to start off featuring my favorite ensemble in my collection which is my Battlestar Galactica flight suit and Viper helmet, which both happen to have cool lighting effects.  The suit was made by Geoff Gay of Midwick Armory. He does an amazing job by using the same material the BSG production used on the show which makes his suits screen accurate.  The electronics for the suit is the O2 (oxygen sensor) on the left lower arm sleeve of the suit.  It’s a circuit board with 5 LEDs that can change color from green to red.  These circuit boards are made and provided to Geoff by Dana Gassar of Anovos Productions. They have a 3 stage pressure switch run by a 9V battery.

Viper Suit O2 Sensor LEDs by Dana Gassar of Anovos Productions

The Viper helmet, which is made by me, is a fiberglass reproduction from a mold and is painted with automotive paint and has a custom PETG plastic vacuum formed lens.  The helmet features two separate lighting systems, one inside the helmet and the two on the lower outside.  Both systems are turned on by the same switch, but have their own power source.  The two LEDs on the outside are run by a 9V battery and the inside forehead lights are run by it’s own 9V battery.  The internal forehead lights were purchased at Autozone.  Auto parts stores like Autozone and PEP Boys are a great source for all kinds of lights and electronics.


Next is the full armor Skull Knight costume I made which has a lighting effect with LEDs in the eyes.  I managed to strategically place the lighting so not to hinder the vision of the cosplayer inside.  Here I am at DragonCon 2011 where you can see the glowing effect in the eyes. This is a daylight shot, so you can imagine if the lights in the Marriot (where this pic was taken) were dimmed.

Isis (Damaris Degen of Mystiques World of Cosplay) and Skull Knight at DragonCon 2011

Lighting doesn’t have to be the sole enhancer to your outfit.  Sound effects is a good  way to surprise onlookers to get their attention.  I am always in awe when someone in  stormtrooper armor adds the voice box to their helmet, so when they talk it sounds just like the movie.

Before we get to lighting up props, there is one more quick electrical thing I’ve done before, which I highly recommend when wearing a helmet for an extended period of time, is putting in little fans or a cooling system.  It may not be noticeable for the crowds, but it will keep you marching on.

Miniature electronic fans for internal cooling.

Here is where we venture off into the world of props to give them a boost with lights in your collection.  The props I made that will be highlighted here are my 1:1 scale Cylon bust display with it’s sweeping red eye effect, 1:1 scale Guts Berserker armor helmet and decorative base from Berserk manga, and the 1:1 scale bust of Skull Knight from Berserk manga as well.

The Battlestar Galactica Cylon’s LED circuit board was made and provided to me by George from Timeslip Creations.  It’s run by 2 AA batteries and I had to convert it to run the switch down onto the base rather than the board.  I just used alligator clips connected to wire to run down the inside of the neck to a toggle switch at the back of the round base.


I put window tinting on a sheet of white copy paper and cut out the shape and stuck it to the back of the plexi glass lens to dissipate the lights so you don’t see the harsh definition of each LED.  It created a smooth sweeping effect.  My first attempt of the eye sweep before asking George to make the boards for me was I bought the Custom Dynamics Night Rider scanner lights.  It was an okay start and it looked cool, but it was way to fast and it looked like the Cylon was on steroids.

Knight Rider scanner bar. Too fast for Cylon.

Lieutenant Margaret “Racetrack” Edmondson played by Leah Cairns photo-op MegaCon 2008

The Berserk prop entry of the Berserker Armor and Skull Knight bust was a carefully well thought out collaboration with a friend I’ve come to know through these projects.  His name is Derek and I talked about him a little on the Home page.  He is the moderator of the Berserk merchandise at skullnight.net forum.  We turned the project into multiple runs (about 30) for fans of the manga to purchase.  Derek was the driving force and designer of these pieces including what to do with the lighting.

For Guts Berserker helmet I used the same style of lights I used on the inside of the viper helmet for the “Z” shaped eyes.  For the base I found a nice little gem of a small circuit board with red LEDs that had seven different action settings.

Guts Berserker Armor Bust Display with red LEDs and pulsating circuit board LEDs on base

Guts Berserker Armor Bust Display with red LEDs












Skull Knight was a little more complicated with the small space I had to work with inside the skull and I had to cover any gaps or voids in the helmet skull so the light would only penetrate through the eyes.  I just hot glued black jersey material from behind, inside the head where the light shined through.  The switch for Skull Knight to turn on the lights is located right behind the inside back of the chin so I didn’t have to run any wires down to the base.  All the electronics are localized in the skull.



So if either you have an awe inspiring costuming impression or a prop room display that you and your guests want to hang out in all day it will be because of the extra effort you put in by adding lighting and electronics.  This can be a great tribute to the fandom culture by representing what you are mimicking with complete accuracy and detail.

Thanks for hanging out here for a little while and I intend on doing complete tutorials on hooking up LEDs to batteries, resistors and switches in the near future so keep a look out here for updates.

ENJOY planning your next adventure!













Enhancing Your Costume With Prop Weapons

Resin stunt blaster from a kit painted

Enhancing Your Costume With Prop Weapons

I know what you’re thinking, “DAH–No Kidding! Of course I’m using props to go along with my getup!” In fact I would venture to say the weapon is probably the first thing finished or obtained before the costume is ready for showing off. This entry is about different ways to make and use your prop weapon as a way to save money and keep it light and safe, but also looking great.  Not every weapon here is done by me. I’ve asked a couple of talented artists I know if I can feature their work here because what they did looks great and they kept it on a low budget.

One of the quickest and least expensive ways to get your weapon is to buy the toy and paint it to look real.  My friend and terrific cosplayer Damaris Degen of Mystique’s World of Cosplay has done exactly this with the Hasbro Han Solo Blaster.

Spray painted base coat.

Spray paint base, dry brush detail.









It’s amazing what spray paint and some dry brushing can do.  She even took the time to drill out the many small holes on the flash hider at the end of the barrel giving it a more authentic look.  Great Job Damaris!

Along the same idea as buying the form and then painting is purchasing an airsoft rifle or gun which is what I did for DragonCon one year.  I got the airsoft to go with my viper suit in combat mode for the parade with The Colonial Fleet. It was an incredibly easy paint job because it was already black.  I just dry brushed some silver highlights to make it look metallic and not plastic.  Both the toy and the airsoft are light weight so carrying them around all day is a breeze.

Airsoft Rifle from eBay silver highlights painted for realism.

Building your weapon from scratch is not as easy, but it is very rewarding and a lot of fun. The challenge is to find the right materials at the right price. Here is an example of an accessory my friend made for his son for Halloween.  This is how he described

Leather strapped PVC handle and Foam floor mat head.

the process of fabricating it: “I drew the axe head pattern on a large sheet of paper and cut it out. I then traced it onto foam floor mat and flipped the pattern and traced it onto another piece of foam floor mat so I had two halves of the axe to sandwich the PVC handle between.  I then glued them together with contact cement.  I used a dremmel tool to shape the axe blade and pick. I wrapped the handle to look like a leather grip. The foam head was sealed with two layers of modge podge and then spray painted the whole thing black.  Then I dry brushed the metal parts with silver paint, painted brown over the leather parts and dry brushed a lighter brown on the leather.” Thanks Jack…looks great!

Much of my work, however, was not so easy.  Some how, I seam to end up doing things the hard and expensive way, but the pieces I’ve made are durable and can be made again because I make molds for about everything I produce.  Having a mold means you could make several and you can experiment with casting in different materials.  Fiberglass,  pour resin casting, or foam are usually the choices of media to manufacture in.

It is a long withstanding or known rule that when bringing a prop firearm with you to a Comic Convention that you paint the tip red or orange for easy visibility to let Con folk and staff know that your piece is fake or harmless.

Airsoft rifle

I hope that this may have been a little inspiring for you to get motivated and be thinking and executing your plans for the next convention you’ll be attending.  Prop weapons are a must and there is nothing like posing for pics by excited Con guests wishing that they had a cool prop to go with their costume.


Get It Signed! Boost Your Prop’s and Collectible’s Value With Autographs

Signatures on Cylon Bust Display

Get It Signed! Boost Your Prop’s and Collectible’s Value With Autographs

The best conversation piece in my collection is my 1:1 scale Cylon bust display I made from the reimagined series of Battlestar Galactica. It’s popular because of my effort to get it signed by as many cast members from the show as I could.  I’m now only missing two autographs that would satisfy my endeavor (Grace Park and Lucy Lawless).  For me the value I posses is in sentiment and not really monetary which are the two different types of value one would attempt by having their piece signed.

Kara “Starbuck” Thrace played by Katee Sackhoff signing a Viper helmet I made for a client

If your goals are monetary value and you plan on selling it I would suggest just the signature without a personalized message on the piece like “To a special fan…” or “Best Wishes ____________”.  The sentimental approach, however, means it stays with you always and you’ll probably pass it down to someone special much later on who will appreciate it.  Both ways are a great and fun way to enhance your collection.

Just getting your desired paraphernalia autographed isn’t enough anymore without getting a letter or proof of authenticity. There is a flooded market for comics and collectibles and a signature can easily be forged, so buyers want the proof.  No sweat, every Con I’ve been to had a booth and offered a service for a letter of authenticity for about $20.00. That’s not cheap, though, especially if you add in the cost of the autograph that you had to pay for.  I’ve seen the price of an autograph be from $20.00 to $250.00.

Personally, for me, I didn’t take the approach of the proof of authenticity.  My proof is with the photos I managed to take of the actors signing or posing with me and my prop.  Good photos can be printed out and displayed on the shelf with the collection.  Leah Cairns will always have a special place with me because she was the first to sign my bust.  She was so impressed with it that I offered to make one for her and she has one too now.  She ended up doing exactly what we’re talking about now, which is getting it signed, when she took her bust on the set with her in the last days of the series and had her cast and crew friends sign it.

Leah’s Cylon Head I made for her when she took it on set during the last days of filming to get her cast friends to sign

Lieutenant Margaret “Racetrack” Edmondson played by Leah Cairns photo-op MegaCon 2008

Leah’s Cylon Head I made for her when she took it on set during the last days of filming to get her cast friends to sign

One last suggestion would be to always have a good black sharpee with you even though the actors always have several on hand with the many head and set shot photos to choose from at their table. Having a sharpee prepares you for a possible lucky encounter at a Con if you bump in to a famous guest in an elevator and they oblige in signing incognito.  Don’t forget to get a pick as proof!